The Legislature this year has thus far been dominated by debate on social issues and the balancing of the FY 2011 state budget. �The House and Senate are still in a budget stalemate. Originally, during the State of the State, Governor Brownback had asked for a budget to be delivered to his desk within a month, this has not happened. We are witnessing a breakdown in the legislative process and no leaders have stepped up to bring both parties together to resolve the differences between the passed proposals from the Senate and House. There is still a $300 Million dollar deficit for FY 2011 after multiple years of debilitating cuts made across the state. Quite a few hard decisions are going to have to be made to meet the constitutional requirement of balancing the budget.
The FY 2011 budget battle is coming to a head as Legislators begin to assemble the FY 2012 budget which needs to be predominately finished by April 3rd. Legislators will then go on a 3 week break and return to finalize the budget mid-April when they will receive March and April revenue estimates.
Since the last KLNN there have been two Hydraulic fracturing resolutions working their way through the House energy and utilities committee, House Concurrent Resolution 5023 and House Concurrent Resolution 5022. HCR 5023, which "Urges Congress to permit the Kansas Corporation Commission to regulate hydraulic fracturing" has passed out of the House Energy and Utilities committee, but there has been no movement on HCR 5022 which asks for state primacy in regulating fracking in Kansas. These resolutions come on the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency ramping up scrutiny of the fracking process at the federal level due to environmental damages accruing in shale gas states using the process.
Hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") involves injecting a pressurized mix of water, sand, and highly toxic chemicals directly into gas-rich shale formations. Chemicals used in fracking fluid are known to cause everything from cancer to depression of the central nervous system.
The natural gas industry currently enjoys unacceptable federal exemptions from key parts of landmark environmental and health laws, including: -- Clean Water Act -- Clean Air Act -- Safe Drinking Water Act -- National Environmental Policy Act -- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act -- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act -- Toxic Release Inventory under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
Our goal is 100 percent public disclosure of all ingredients and the quantities used in the fracking process. In most locations the companies are protected from disclosing fracking fluids to the public.
Right now, natural gas companies are rarely required to use best practices in deep shale gas production and other exploration, development and transportation operations. Strong protections are not in place at the state or federal levels, and the industry actively resists them. The Sierra Club seeks the toughest standards because the current lax standards have caused harm to people and the natural environment.
Fracking fluids and produced water returned to the surface must be treated to remove all chemicals and natural elements that can cause harm. Natural gas companies and regulators should monitor surface and ground water to make sure there is no migration of fracking fluids leading to contamination.
Local Environmental Protection Program
The Local Environmental Protection Program (LEPP) was started in 1990 to enable local authorities to develop water protection plans that are customized for their areas and complement other water quality efforts being waged by state and federal agencies. Plans developed with LEPP funds describe actions that communities will take to manage private septic system waste -water treatment, solid waste, hazardous waste, non-point source pollution, and private water wells. Over the 20 years of operation, $32.5 million in grants have been made to counties.
Last year 104 counties participated in the $980,000 of grants. Kansas Department of Health and Environment requested $1.4 million for 2012 all from the State Water Plan. The program helps provide inspections, siting, and monitoring of private wastewater systems, often a source of pollution. The Governor has proposed to completely eliminate this program. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) will still provide the technical assistance for this program but no grant funding. That cost will now fall to the counties if they can afford to continue these activities.
Water Rights Conservation Program
Senate Bill 191 authorizes the Water Rights Conservation Program (WRCP) by statute with a fee to fund this program. The Kansas Water Appropriation Act provides the framework for a system of water rights and permits to allow the beneficial use of water in Kansas. One part of this act provides for forfeiture of a water right through abandonment, thus allowing water to become available for someone else to put to use. KSA 82a-718 states that water rights are forfeited by abandonment when water is not used for 5 consecutive years without due and sufficient cause for non use. Kansas Department of Agriculture Water Resources Division regulations contain 11 items to determine sufficient cause for non use. The WRCP is one of those due and sufficient causes.
WRCP was initiated through rule and regulations in 1992 without many restrictions and without fees. Western Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 1 wanted a program to protect water rights from abandonment because of proposed dairies moving into their region. They wanted 7-10 years to secure water for these dairies but state law restricted the time to five years. WRCP was created for this purpose and the program is widely used today. There are 962 WRCP-enrolled water rights involving municipals (11), industrial (9), irrigation (932), stockwater (3) and recreation (3). These contracts are 2.84% of the State's overall total and 1.95% of authorized acre-feet statewide. Kansas has 33,849 water rights and 13,110,570 acre-feet authorized in total.
WRCP was phased out in 2009 as the agency faced a 20% reduction in state general funds and because WRCP was not a program required by statute. Thus no new contracts were accepted but the 962 existing WRCP contracts remained in effect. WRCP is really intended for the closed areas in Kansas to new water rights. This closed area is primarily in southwestern Kansas and a small area around Pittsburg in southeastern Kansas. While there is still a debate on whether WRCP should apply statewide, SB 191 has strong support and should pass.
PS. We thank Mary Fund and the Kansas Rural Center for being kind enough to allow us to use their very precise summary's of some of the the above legislation.
You can find your legislator by visiting http://www.ipsr.ku.edu/ksdata/vote/ or by using the voters self defense system provided by Project Vote Smart at http://www.VoteSmart.org
Legislative Director | Kansas Sierra Club
Owner | campaign.cc